The Barbarian’s Fiddle

I sat in a room
with a noisy crowd
who hated all things “Asian”
haunted, they were
by world war ghosts
communist libations
they speared the Barbarian-Yellow Goldfish
in their community pond
siphoned the living waters
leaving sandy bottoms –
the dried grains of bigotry
kicked and whipped
into a blinding storm

Their Dust Bowl creation
ever threatens to choke the next generations

I made two strings sing
that mimicked the human voice

The room fell momentarily silent

I played on


until, interrupted by an old man
coughing up affected phlegm
that he spat into the Dust Bowl
slightly settled through his falling tears

I paused

He inquired as to what beautiful instrument
had seduced his soul to
An erhu, I sighed
It is Asian –
otherwise called the “Barbarian’s Fiddle”
Its two, long strings carry the vibrations
of generations of tears splashed down onto the collective pool
by those you persecute by referring to them as
“slanted-eyed Chinks”

He snorted and laughed
He kicked some dirt in my face

I played on


an endless tune carried in the vibrato of two Asian strings


Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse. Bookmark the permalink.


33 thoughts on “The Barbarian’s Fiddle

    1. Thank you, Michael. The inspiration for the piece came from listening to the Erhu. The tones and vibrato of that instrument mimic those of the human voice. I find listening to it moving in strange ways, something that this piece reflected, in part. I’m glad you liked it. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Colleen. The inspiration for it came from listening to the Erhu. If you listen to music played on that instrument (YouTube has a bunch of videos), you will hear tones that mimic the human voice, especially in the deep vibrato. It is a beautiful instrument that can relay a lot of human sorrow and depth of emotion. I tried to capture that in the words.


      1. I’m listening to a piece as I respond to you. I can see how the very sound would inspire Tanya. It really can get into you can’t it?

        I just went back and reread your piece with the music. It almost felt like I could hear your voice in it. (Maybe by your suggestion, but it worked!).

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Aruna. I’m not sure I completely understand your question, but the basis for speaking about people of Asian background is the stereotyping and bigotry I see still going on in the US. 😊


      1. I think of all people as “human”. I love and celebrate diversity and all the varieties of culture. I used the term “Asian” in this piece to highlight a certain type of bigotry that looks down on people (in this case, people of far-Eastern cultures, especially Japan and China, where the Erhu originated) and everything those particular people do or touch. I hope that helps.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.